Thursday, October 29, 2015

For some, College IS a waste of time

Walter Williams writes
"A good part of our higher education problem, explaining its spiraling cost, is that a large percentage of students currently attending college are ill-equipped and incapable of doing real college work. They shouldn't be there wasting their own resources and those of their families and taxpayers."
Absolutely true. For many students, a well-paying blue-collar job is all they want, and all they will want from life.  And that's OK.

But Williams doesn't stop with that:
Another CCAP essay by Vedder and his colleagues, titled "From Wall Street to Wal-Mart," reports that there are "one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees." More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, such as flight attendants, taxi drivers and salesmen. Was college attendance a wise use of these students' time and the resources of their parents and taxpayers?
Well, no, not if you leave it at that.  Why is the assumption that all those college graduates are stopping there or that the jobs that don't require a degree are anything other than temporary?

Why are you making the assumption that college was useless for them just because they are accepting a job at the low end of the scale? This used to be called "working your way up the ladder" and perhaps some few of the waiters and and taxi drivers were looking to remain there permanently, but all of them?
Colleges should refuse admission to students who are unprepared to do real college work. That would not only help reveal shoddy primary and secondary education but also reduce the number of young people making unwise career choices. Sadly, that won't happen. College administrators want warm bodies to bring in money.
More importantly, why must college be the default?

So many people are being told that college is the only option for post-high-school 18 year-olds. It shouldn't be the default.

Not every kid belongs there ...
  • right now ... maybe a couple of years from now, when he's more mature, has gotten a job and realized that he wants more?
  • perhaps a technical school, certification program?
  • at all .... not every kid has the chops to get a college degree ... and that's okay. Honesty in self-evaluation used to be considered a sign of maturity. Not every kid wants to spend $80k to get a degree when he could just start being a woodcarver/artist, logger, mechanic, plumber, heavy equipment operator, welder ... just like his dad.
  • not at this time because he doesn't have the money, but he's going to work for a while and save up.
Come on, guidance counselors.  Your job is to counsel the students on the best options that exist for them, not shoehorn them into some version of your fantasy student.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lost Learning Time

This clown feels that he has the answer to our time crunch: teach bell-to-bell.

He calculates 5 hours a day of teaching; each 1 hour block takes about 5 minutes to get started and ends about 5 minutes early. Extrapolating out, he gets 10 minutes out of 60 minutes are "underutilized", 50 minutes per day, 250 minutes per week and 8700 minutes per year not utilized for learning. Okay, that's still 1/6 of the school year, or about 17% ... and it is a lot. I'm just not sure that the time can be re-couped so easily.

If you only have a couple of minutes to go from building to building or from floor to floor, there's no way that students can make the transitions if they are writing in their notebooks and not packing up until after the bell ring rings -- pack, walk, sip of water, pee break - walk, and barely make it to the next class.  Bell rings and most are still unpacking, getting out and starting up Chromebooks, etc.

Okay, so a few minutes start and finish. Meh. Just another fool extrapolating way too far ... like the people who calculate that time talking about football is somehow wasting billions of dollars per year in lost productivity.

But here's where it gets funny; here's where he failed miserably ... and where I'm not particularly sure the Good Doctor has been in a classroom recently.
"... and 8700 per year not utilized for learning. Now, let's be realistic and cut that number in half because we all know there are assemblies and other events that cut into learning time throughout the school year. That leaves us with 4,350 minutes of time not spent learning."
Cut in half?

Try "double it".  Assemblies aren't some magic eraser that makes those lost few minutes go away. Assemblies and field trips ADD to the lost time.
Sheesh, dude.

I'll pass, thanks.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Grading and Homework

from Justin Tarte, one of the signals that there is a grading problem in your classroom is:
When talking with parents at parent teacher conferences (which honestly need a complete overhaul by the way) you find yourself telling multiple parents that their child would be doing much better grade-wise if they would just do the homework.
It struck me that there are two ways to parse this.

(1) That the child was not doing the homework and the homework is graded so the zeroes bring the grade down even though the student understood everything and could prove it ... OR
(2) that the homework is key to building automaticity and understanding, and that by not doing any of it, we shouldn't be surprised that the grade, which is a reflection of the understanding and ability to use the material in new ways (proficiency) was an indicator of that lack of proficiency.

Is it any wonder that I hate professional development that takes such a simplistic and uninformed statement and builds policy around it ... despite the ambiguity inherent in the statement?

"Stop grading homework!"
"Stop giving homework!"
"Homework is counterproductive!"
"Proficiency-based Grading explicitly rejects grading homework."

Leading to a blanket policy across the board:

Is this really a good idea?